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ShadowFinder Campaign Sketch

ShadowFinder is a concept for a Modern Urban Fantasy setting using heavily-modified Starfinder.

The idea behind ShadowFinder is that there used to be magic in our world, but it went away when the Gods of Old Egypt left to go a place Beyond. Then there was no magic to speak of, until a group of mystic champions arrived in Siberia during WWI to kill Rasputin, and accidentally left a few magic devices behind.

Now it’s the Modern era, and magic is common enough that most governments and many international organizations have at least one department that knows about it, and as needed deals with it. But the greatest protection a mundane creature can have is to believe magic does not exist, and so these in-the-know groups are literally protecting the world by keeping magic a secret. Further, just as vampires cannot be seen in mirror, they (and all magic effects and creatures) cannot clearly be recorded or sensed by any camera, film, or recording device, but are vulnerable to atomic weapons. So magic threats tend to try to stay out of sight, so they don’t force the whole world to grapple with their existence and potentially over-react with devastating power.

Both sides work to keep magic in the Shadows, and to find sources, allies, threats, and lost relics in those shadows to bolster their own side in a never-ending was keep just out of sight.

(Art by grandfailure)

Classes would be drawn from various sources. Soldiers and operative from the core rulebook, certainly, with little change. Likely mechanics, but with neither drones nor exo-cortexes as common options, replaced with some other variable class feature. No solarions or vanguards at all, but maybe sword saints. Warlocks and witches seem more appropriate than mystics or technomancers, though it’d be a shame to not have some kind of modern-device-focused spellcasters — again variant classes might do the trick. Biohackers are out, witchwarpers likely in. The precog is a definite maybe, depending on how it turns out.

Weapons would scale differently, with an equipment list that didn’t assume you got higher- and higher-level weapons, but instead use weapon damage benchmarks to scale up the damage a character does as they gain levels, allowing things like pistols, shotguns, and rifles to retain utility even at extremely high levels.

In a standard characters would at least initially be part of one of the groups that monitor, track, and if needed neutralize supernatural threats, and action would primarily take place in wilderness areas, abandoned towns, lonely highways, and defunct sewers, basements, and subway lines. As players got used to how the ShadowFinder world worked, some scenes might burst into the bright light of day, only to be misconstrued by the public (and maybe even misremembered by witnesses) as gas main explosions, terrorist attacks, or herds of feral hogs.

Plots could include locking down viral zombie outbreaks before they turn into zombie apocalypses, retrieving the book that got moved to a university’s accessible library that is bring people’s nightmares to life, undead serial killers that haunt campgrounds, tracking down wererat colonies that are feeding on the homeless, rescuing student filmmakers from nighthags in the woods, capturing souls that have escaped hell, slaying evil clown demons, and racing against time to beat cultists to the artifacts of power in the bottom of dungeons built in the ancient era to prevent them from falling into mortal hands. Along the way other weirdnesses might be encounters, such as cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers, giant alligators in the sewers, giant cockroaches mimicking humans, and genetically engineered giant spiders.

I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts, but especially longer and more experimental ones like this. If you’d like to see more game-bending rule options (or more fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

KOLONY – A Campaign Framework

“KOLONY” is a campaign framework for Starfinder, and any other rpg you care to adapt it to.

Matter, it turns out, simply cannot exceed the speed of light. However, a sufficiently advanced civilization can rotate artificial wormholes around one another in order to transmit data at vastly greater speeds. This being the case, with only data able to leap between stars in less than centuries, it might be thought that interstellar empires and hostile takeovers of alien worlds are impossible.

It might be thought… but it’s not true.

In 2047, the first transmissions from the Kastellan Collective were received from an artificial wormhole array in orbit of Mars. Though there was a delay averaging from 5 to 20 minutes for signals to move back and forth from the Martian Orbital Wormhole Array (MOWA) to Earth, there appeared to be essentially NO delay from MOWA to wherever the Kastellan Collective is. The Kastellanians claimed with was due to ftl communication, though numerous theories suggest that in truth some intelligence, real or artificial, is physically present at the MOWA.

It doesn’t really matter.

Though unable to physically affect Earth at all, the Kastellians immediately set about being power brokers and empire builders. They could focus MOWA transmissions so tightly that only one receiver on Earth would pick it up. They began making promises, cutting deals, and handing out schematics for advanced technology as their currency of choice. Strong AI. Antigravity. Cold fusion. Genetic engineering. Cloning. Quantum flux manipulation so amazing that to a casual observer, it is indistinguishable from magic.

Major corporations, world governments, and various individuals the Kastellians found useful suddenly had vast knowledge, science, and power. And as long as they did what the Kastellians wanted, they got more. The “Kaste System” quickly went into effect, with those willing to vote for politicians who promised to abolish local government and law in favor for the miracles of the Kastellan Collective getting the best of everything, while everyone else was a second-class citizen almost overnight.

A generation has passed. Upper Kaste humans claim they are still the ruling class, that the Earth is still a Human world for Human habitation.

But it’s a lie.

(Art by grandfailure)

Genetic modification has created dozens of substrains of humans, built to Kastellan specifications. Lashunata. Shirren. Vesk. Ysoki. Kasatha. Brethedans. Genetically still 95% or more human, but so clearly designed for something else. Many are Upper Kaste… but some show more loyalty to their ancestors than theowners of their breeding tubes.

The world is being molded to suite the Kastellians, who claim they’ll send just a few observers, via cryosleep, who will arrive in 5,000 years. Nothing to worry about…

But already Earth culture is being wiped out and replaced by the Kaste. Cemeteries are dug up and the remains and artifacts scanned, so data about them can be sent via MOWA to curious Kastellians… and are often scanned at a molecular level which destroys the original. As Kastellian language and ethics and art begins to dominate culture, old Earth languages and art is lost, and sometimes outlawed. The United Nations is a pale vestige of Human power. Even where they should be contrained by local law, those who call themselves Kaste look down on anyone who does not serve and swear allegiance to the Kastellian way of life. Robotic soldiers and overseers built to Kastellian specifications control more of the streets, and answer only to commands from MOWA.

Sure, the air has begun to smell acrid, but the water is safe. Yes, most of the world’s power is taken up running calculations on Kate computers designed and built for the Kastellians, which spit out answers to the MOWA without any Human ever even knowing what the question was. But that’s a small price to pay for progress, isn’t it? Who cares if we are slowly losing what it means to be human, since we have androids, regeneration machines, and 100,000 years of Kastellian art to catch up on.

And yes, of course, now other interstellar powers have begun to make inroads. The Mygus offer alternatives to Kastellian service… for those who swear obedience to the Mygus. The Chardalos are happy to give even greater scientific advances, in return for human minds to be digitized into pure data and send through their own Wormhole Array to power Chardalos machines. The Favirzon just want to encourage rebels to damage and slow Kastellian servants, especially upper Kaste.

It’s 2080. Alien collaborators control every major nation, and to one degree or another ever big city, major corporation, and even most churches. The idea of humanity, and every art, culture, philosophy, and language of terrestrial origin is at risk of being wiped out. And anyone who doesn’t bow to one or more interstellar information empire is seen as a second-class citizen at best, and a savage or even vermin at worse.

And you?

You realize there’s not much time left to save the Earth from being nothing more than an alien Kolony.

(Art by Melkor)

Resist. Preserve. Rebel.

Kolony is a game of conflict against an alien culture that has opted to consume and reshape Earth to match its own wants and desires. None of those aliens are physically present, but enough Terrans have chosen to become Kaste that they have the upper hand. No one is you enemy because of the species they were born into, or even the nation they hail from. Instead, you oppose members of the various Kaste because of the choices they have made, to prioritize gaining the wealth of alien tech and data at the cost of selling out everyone else on the planet. The Kaste all know that eventually there will be nothing left of humans but museum exhibits, but as long as that happens after their own long life spans, they don’t care.

You do.

As a Starfinder campaign, all magic is presented as quantum manipulation, a form of technology so advanced that even the Kaste who use it don’t understand it. Most regions have laws restricting such quantum tech to approved Kaste members – no one else can legally use any spell, spell-like ability, supernatural ability, or magic or hybrid item. Of course, as rebels, the players are likely to flaunt such rules, but must do so cautiously. Casting a spell while in disguise raiding a datacenter is one thing—it’s worth the risk to prevent people’s minds from being digitized so they can serve as virtual assistants in some distant system, or ancestral relics be put behind paywalls so only Kastellian virtual tours can see them. But in day-to-day life, such displays will bring visits from the automated Patent Police, or Kaste Commissars.

(Art by Kit8 D.O.O.)

I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts, but especially longer and more experimental ones like this. If you’d like to see more game-bending rule options (or more fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words (Update!)

It’s been more than 18 months since I updated the Revised, Partial List of Very Fantasy Words (which can be found here)!

So if you want to have a vavasor gallivant across his demesne, or have the sigil in a grimoire be the campaign’s telos, these are the words for you!

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Appendix O: Sortition as a Plot Device

Okay, yes, “Appendix O” is a cheesy and derivate name for a column title. But I really did love the inspirational appendices of some of my early RPG purchases in the 1980s, and genuinely learned a lot from them. Not as academic sources themselves, but as starting points for me to hunt down ideas and historical or philosophic context of ideas I first encountered in ttRPGs.

So when I realized I wanted a column title for just starting points of ideas I could pitch and explore a bit for gaming, I settled on this… in about 5 minutes without much serious though. I may or may not do more Appendix O articles. If you have an opinion on the idea, let me know!

Given it’s Election Day here in the U.S.A., I thought I’d tackle a government-related idea I’ve been playing with for some time as a potential plot device — sortition.

What is Sortition?

As a broad definition, sortition is the act of selecting, sorting, or deciding something by drawing lots. In governance, sortition is the selection of governing agents through random selection from a bigger pool of qualified candidates.

In 6th century Athens, sortition was considered a crucial part of democracy. The idea was that if positions of power were allowed to be filled through election, competition for those positions would inevitably lead to oligarchy as people made promises, cut deals, and build power bases to ensure they would get elected and re-elected. By assigning governing officers at random (from the male citizens who self-selected to be potential candidates).

However, sortition CAN use anything as qualifying for candidates, or nothing at all. Looking at some of the interesting governments proposed on early ttRPG sourcebooks, a Mageocracy might use sortition to assign important governmental positions to randomly selected spellcasters within the kingdom. A Theocracy that worshipped a god of chance (or has a strong tradition of using random fortune-telling methods to determine the will of the gods, or perhaps the collective will of a whole pantheon of gods) might use sortition to assign those positions not held by the church, or to decide who within the church holds government positions through sortition.

Sortition has been used in many forms over the centuries. In the US, juries for trials are essentially selected by sortition (and it’s easy to see why electing jurors would be seen as rife with corruption.) Sortition has been used to replace just a legislatural body, or to form policy boards, and even to select community leaders.

So, how can a government determined by chance be used in a ttRPG as a plot point?

(Art by Grandfailure)

Congratulations, High Minister

If you present a sortition government to PCs, and explain that anyone who meets certain qualifications can be selected to serve, the PCs may still be surprised when one of them is selected to fill an important role. Depending on the government, the selection may not be something a character is allowed to decline.

This allows a GM to introduce political elements to a campaign without worrying about political parties, campaigning, votes, or even re-election. A PC is handed a position for one term, which could be as short as a few weeks (especially if they are filling in for the end of a term of someone who died in office), and no actions on the PCs’ part is going to get them another term.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, King

You could also have an ally, patron, or even adversary of the PCs have vast political power dropped in their lap–or have them need to rush to complete some project or pass a law before their term ends, since they know they have little chance of keeping the power to do so after the next random assignment of power.

Luck as Political Power

Many ttRPGs have chance-manipulating abilities in the hands of PCs. If a government is strongly influences by sortition, those abilities can be seen as political power. A player might be woo’d by a candidate to skew luck in their favor… or accused of doing so when the PC did no such thing.

Open Field

Rather than force a plot on PCs, a GM could also just establish a major sortition government as an invitation for PCs who are interested. If candidates must express interest in running for office, but are then chosen by lots, it allows PCs to decide to get involved in politics very spur-of-the moment.

Critical Failure

One of the common criticisms of sortition is that it does not select for skill or morality. A GM could use that as a plot point, having a stable, rational, well-liked set of government officials replaced by idiots and crooks with a particularly bad set of randomly assigned positions. This could cause nearly overnight change, and potentially riots and cries for revolution. It can also place the PCs in a position where they must choose between the well-established law of the land, and wishing to replace an objectively terrible ruler, judge, legislator, or all of them above.

I have a Patreon. It supports the time I take to do all my blog posts. If you’d like to see more Appendix O ideas, (or game theories, Pathfinder 1st edition thoughts, or more rules for other game systems, fiction, game industry essays, game design articles, worldbuilding tips, whatever!), try joining for just a few bucks and month and letting me know!

Fantasy Maxims

Sometimes as a GM, you just need a new maxim to put on a tomb wall, or inscribe into a book, or have a wise old turtle say while puffing on a pipe.

So, here are some options.

“It takes more than a hoard of gold to make you a dragon.”

“Counting a man’s tears doesn’t teach you the depth of his grief.”

“A man who freezes do death does not care how soon Spring is.”

“A tunnel is just a hole that kept going.”

“Butterflies don’t help caterpillars.”

“Don’t make deals with talking skulls.”

“The differences between heroes and corpses is more skill than luck.”

“Don’t light a candle if you don’t want to see what’s in the dark.”

“No one buries something without good cause to take on the labor.”

“Blame the parent for a child’s behavior, but blame the adult for their own actions.”

“An axe that chops wood is a tool. An axe that chops flesh is a weapon. The axe doesn’t care.”

(Art by Svitlana)

Want more random RPG ideas? Game stats? Would you rather see more material for Starfinder, or industry insider articles? Walkthroughs of my developer or game designer processes? Join my Patreon for a few bucks a month, and let me know!

Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild, Pt 2

So as I noted a little over a week ago, I am starting a Fantasy AGE campaign, specifically designed to help me have a place to try things out as the Fantasy AGE developer for Green Ronin Publishing. This will be the “Tales of the Intrepideur’s Guild,” and have as a framing device that the PCs are entry-level professional adventurers belonging to the aforementioned guild, and doing jobs it sanctions.

I explained a bit about why such a guild would exist in the imaginary game world of Fage I am creating for this campaign. Now I want to delve a bit into the guild itself.

For this article, we’ll discuss the guild’s place in the world of Fage.

The Intrepideur’s Guild is one of the major “Slate League” freelance unions (an unofficial designation that comes from only the most successful such groups able to afford slate tile roofs for all their guildhalls). It among the oldest still-active freelancer unions, third only to the Ratcatcher Society and the Right and Honorable Order of Dragonslayers, both of which are a good deal smaller and not considered Slate League institutions (though the Dragonslayers were, at one time). It is also among the most trusted (along with the Lady’s Sewing Circle and Heroic Alliance) most widespread (challenged in that regard only by the Council of Warlocks and Alchemists’ Consociation), and most successful (consistently placing in the top three best mission-clearance rates, often with the Court of Justiciars and Council of Warlocks, though it worth noting the Lady’s Sewing Circle refuses to discuss their clearance rate, or who their clients are).

Nearly every major city has a Intrepideur’s Guildhall, along with many towns, trading posts, and crossroads. Outside of emergency or disaster relief, only members of the guild in good standing can stay at a Guildhall, and they can do so extremely cheaply—though anyone staying for more than a few weeks without taking on some missions (officially called “Quests”) will get relocated to another Guildhall if members who are on quests need the room.

Because the guild will only accept and sanction quests from individuals or groups that agree to a set or rules regarding the treatment of its members, most city-states and townships have formal treaties with the it. these treaties insure that the guild will have a guildhall at a set rate or tax, that income from performing quests is not taxed, and that guild members are treated fairly and legally always have the right to demand to see an Intrepideur’s Guild representative before being taken to trial or having any criminal punishment carried out.

In many ways, the Intrepideur’s Guild is a government itself, run by a Guildroyal (currently Guildmistress Akachi), overseen by a Council of Senior Hallkeepers, and able to negotiate with the most powerful city-states on near-equal footing. Of course the Intrepideur’s Guild lacks a standing army, and city-states can gather in alliances… but since the guild also shows no sign of wanting to impose its will on anything beyond how its own people are treated, most governments consider the benefit of access to its quest-boards more than worth the cost of agreeing to its terms.

After all, sometimes you need a high-level Intrepideur.

(Art by Jesse-lee Lang)

So, how does the guild decide what Quests to take? How do you join? What’s in it for the Intrepideurs?

Well get to that stuff in time!

Want me to create more campaign setting notes? Want to see more stuff for Fantasy AGE? Want something else? Really Wild West content? generic GM advice? Would you rather see more material for 5e, Starfinder, or industry insider articles? Join my Patreon for a few bucks a month, and let me know!

Worldbuilding Through Language, Part 1

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary has a “Time Traveler” function, which allows you to see what words first saw print in a given year.

Which means if you have a campaign set in a real-world year, you can create a list of words that were first used in print that year. This becomes a list of the cutting edge of new discussions in various fields. If ‘antibiotic’ is first used as a word in 1891, and that’s the year of your campaign, that tells you something about the state of medicine and awareness of it as a concept. It also means you may want to look at the history of the word and see how it was being used. (Antibiotics, for example, were being explored as a concept in 1891, not yet available).

As an example of what I mean, here is a list of words first used in English in print in 1891, the year of my Really Wild West campaign.

(Art by Digital Storm)








balloon tire

batting cage



collective bargaining

compass rose

diving board

domestic violence

electromagnetic radiation




fair catch

fair market value


fine print


flea market



house detective



motion picture






reinforced concrete

secondhand smoke



slot machine

stinking smut




table tennis


Tasmanian tiger


time card

torpedo tube

trade in


traveler’s check





water cannon


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Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild, Pt 1

It should come as no shock that, as Green Ronin’s developer for the Fantasy AGE RPG, I want to run a Fantasy AGE campaign. Running (and playing) the games I write and develop for is an important part of being connected to the material as-played for me when I can arrange it, and it helps me build and maintain system mastery.

I have been *meaning* to start a Fantasy Age game for months, but (waves hands at… everything).

However, since I’m only going to be able to run a single campaign at the moment, I want to set up its framework to maximize its benefits to me. That means organizing it so I can run no matter how many of my players can show up, maximizing the amount of time the campaign focuses on game mechanics, and having a framework lose enough I can experiment with and playtest new material without having to spend a lot of effort working it into the game.

My players are, of course, aware that these are goals of mine. I’m currently only able to play in-person with the very small group in my social bubble, all of whom are folks I’ve been playing RPGs with for 20 years or more, so that’s not an issue.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want ANY framing device for the campaign. I just want one with a great deal of flexibility and a focus on small, variable groups going and doing dangerous or difficult things.

And for this game, that’s going to come in the form of the Intrepideurs’ Guild. Which immediately leads to the question, what the heck is an Intrepideur?

(Art by Luca Oleastri)

The word is a portmanteau of Intrepid and Entrepreneur that I am intentionally creating for its slightly cheesy flavor. It will, in-world, be used the way “adventurer” might be in a lot of fantasy game settings. Within the context of the fictional world I am creating, an Intrepideur is someone who makes a career out of being brave and bold, and facing things most people don’t want to.

So in our fictional world (which, for the moment, I am naming Fage), its considered normal to have your day-job be facing dangerous things to make money. In many cases, someone will pay you to do this, because the dangerous things make their lives difficult. In other cases, a group might decide to seek out and face a danger because they think there’s money to be made in doing so. Folks of Fage treat Intrepideurs the way our current world treats first responders, extreme sports athletes and mountain climbers, and entrepreneurs. It’s not for everyone and it’s a bit off the norm, but in general it’s seen as a reasonable choice for people drawn to such work.

Now some of this work is pretty intermittent stuff — if bandits have taken to preying on a road between countries, you can hire Intrepideurs to guard you as you travel it or even to clear off the bandits entirely. Need someone to hunt down and stop an arsonist? Protect your sheep from wolves? Hunt down giant crabs suddenly tearing up fishing nets? Gather the prophetic and altering spice Mordant from the Shifting Desert? Intripdeurs are your best bet.

But there are also some things that happen at least as often as severe weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires, and that really do call for a society to maintain an entire class of people trained to deal with them. Here are some common sources of ongoing Intrepideur work.

Bone Stars — It’s well known that the night sky is the inside of the skull of the giant that was slain by the First Gods to make the world (though there is significant disagreement on which giant, and which gods). Sometimes, the long-dead giant forms a wicked thought in its skull, which flakes off a bit of the bone from the skull and plummets to Fage in a bolt of colored fire. Bone Stars can be seen for days before landing, and are often signs of misfortune or the death of a ruler.

But they also often have actual… things… on them. Screaming, mobile fungi that consume all they come across. Metal spiders that build webs of crystal that drink sunlight. Evil, psychic rats. And whatever it is? It does not belong on Fage. it does not seek balance with its environment. The things from Bone Stars was plagues on the land that, if not dealt with, can eventually scrub whole kingdoms clean of life.

And if one of those Bone Stars lands near your town? You want some Intrepideurs to show up and take care of it. Quick, while it’s small.

(Art by Dominick)

Catacairns — There have been waves of evil spirits, demigods, and demons that have attacked the World of Fage in the past, sometimes swarming over entire continents. When those things are defeated, it turns out they mostly can’t be “killed” in the mortal sense of the word. But they can be placed within massive underground tomb complexes, which are filled with puzzles and traps and hazards to keep the spirits from ever finding their way to their physical remains, or out into the world. these tomb-prison complexes are known as Catacairns. Some are centuries old, built by fallen empires or lone genius/hermit mages, marked by weird mehirs and monuments.

Mostly, they are pretty stable prisons. Mostly.

But sometimes some energy leaks out of an abandoned Catacairn into the nearby wilderness or town and… CHANGES things. That usually mean a seal or lock has cracked, and SOMEONE has to both deal with the twisted “cairnite” abominations it creates, and go fix the thing. And sometimes cultists or power-mad idiots crack into a catacairn intentionally, to siphon such power, or even release what is within in hopes of being rewarded with vast power. Sometimes the outer locks and traps fail after centuries of disuse, and minor spirits even escape outward, and have to be put down and trapped again.

And sometimes? Sometimes the worst things, at the lowest levels, wake up and start to tear down their whole prison, block by block.

(Art by info@nextmars)

Prismatic Mountains — There are multiple ranges of Prismatic Mountains throughout the World of Fage, and they… shift. Not all the time, but always during the winter. A pass found one year is likely useless by the next. Residents, animals, monsters, even weather shifts from year to year. And Prismatic Mountains are almost always right where you want to take caravans of trade goods through.

So, every year, there’s a huge demand for Intrepideurs to go into the nearest Prismatic Mountain range, and map what they can, learn what they can and, if possible, find a route through. With trade routes cut off nearly all winter, the first group who can prove they can get a caravan through can command steep prices of their route, and some small traders will risk heading into the mountains before a pass is established, with many escorts, hoping to be the first to reach the trade routes on the far side so they can charge premium prices for their wares.

Finding a new route can make Intrepideurs reputation. Finding the FIRT route through in a given year also makes them temporary celebrities.

So there’s the campaign basic set-up. Players will be members of an Intrepideurs’ Guild, starting as Tin-ranked members, hoping to work their way up to Copper, Silver, Gold, and Mithral ranks. They get jobs dealing with problems, each one designed to be a single night of gaming. If a player isn’t free a given night, their Intrepideur can’t make it for the mission that time. Weird things and dangers are built into the campaign setting, so I can test things out and, if they don’t work, discard them never to be mentioned again.

Given the popularity of the Really Wild West session recaps, I may recap my Tales of the Intrepideurs’ Guild game sessions as well. And if there’s interest, I can go into more details on how the Guild is set up to speed play along.

Want me to create more campaign setting notes? Want to see more stuff for Fantasy AGE? Want something else? Really Wild West content? generic GM advice? Would you rather see more material for 5e, Starfinder, or industry insider articles? Join my Patreon for a few bucks a month, and let me know!

Notes for the Really Wild West

RWW Logo

(Logo by Perram, pistol art by Jacob Blackmon)

I ran my first actual session of my first full Really Wild West campaign, called “Really Wild West: Doomstone”

Here are some notes from that sessions.

The “New Wild”: Due to the Ravages of the brief War of the Worlds in early 1890, the lawless West is much more expansive in 1891 than it was just a few years earlier. While major towns exist, and are mostly as controlled and regimented as one would expect, the entire central area of the United States — from the Mississippi River to the Cascade Mountains — is simply not yet back under government control beyond sight of a major settlement. Wherever an army unit or even US Martial circuit patrol happen to be, it’s fairly lawful. Some towns, sheriffs, mutual aid societies and land-owners can also enforce rules within their own demesne (which some do fair-mindedly and others… don’t).
But the fabric of society has not yet recovered from either the direct effect of being overrun by alien war machines that destroyed entire cities and killed millions, or the psychological effect of learning aliens exist, want us dead, have better technology than Earth, and that often women and children and immigrants were crucial to slowing their advance and evacuating those in their path despite being often discouraged from such roles by society.
From the Mississippi to the Cascades is the New Wild. Stay alert. Be cautious. Strap iron.

East Hudson Fur Trading Company: Multinational trade and mercantile… and banking, private security, espionage, manufacturing, and land exploitation. They actually call one of the services they offer “land exploitation.” Had war declared on them by the Lakota for “Crimes Against Man and Nature.” Merciless. Efficient. Profitable.

Fonts & Bismark: A powerful “service company,” that handles deliveries, finances, and vault storage. Grew out of an adventuring company in the 1840s. Mercenary, but have tight ethics controls on who they work for… but a contract, once signed, is fulfilled.
Sometimes do government work. Sometimes hired to protect against the government.

Lost Walkers: When the Martians realized they were dying off, many hid their machines (mostly tripods, but also some flying machines and digging machines) and mothballed them. The Central Power Core of these machines, once cold, can only be brought back to life with an active Central Core.
Only walkers that were captured during the war without being destroyed, or the first few grabbed when the earliest Martians succumbed to viruses, had their Central Core taken intact and active. Thus these are among the most valued of artifacts. Most are in the hands of national or state governments, with a much smaller number controlled by the rich and powerful (Edison is smugly vocal about having two. Tesla dodges the question when asked. A young Polish scientist studying in Paris, Marie Skłodowska, is warning anyone who will listen not to stand too close to the things.)
When a Lost Walker is found, there is a “Tripod Rush” as people tear it apart for rare elements, crystals, and circuits, and scour the surrounding territory for any other Martian relics. But if anyone ever managed to repair and restart a tripod with a Central Core, it would immediately become a notable regional power.

Newgauge: Even before the War of the Worlds caused technological advancement to explode, most industrially advanced nations were moving to Newgauge trains — massive mass-transit vehicles twenty feet wide, nearly thirty feet tall, with locomotives and cars each up to 150 feet long. Since the war, Newgauge trains have become rolling battleships, each normally equipped with heat-dispensing armor on critical cars, and with at least one Rail Monitor car with artillery and units of troops.
But you absolutely cannot run Newgauge trains without building entirely-new tracks. While in the densely-populated Northeast and West Coast, that has been done extensively enough to least linked the biggest cities, the Martians did enough damage to the central parts of the country that even old rails are no longer properly transcontinental, and no Newgauge rails to speak of have yet been laid down… or even surveyed to accommodate the additional massive easement needs. Thus smaller “Old Rail” trains must be used, and occasionally have to fend for themselves between cities.

Old No. 7: An ‘Old Rail’ train with variable-gauge axles, Old No. 7 is a more-than 50-year-old 4-4-0 locomotive and its associated cars that was pressed into service as a military transport during the War of the Worlds (and armored, and equipped with an automaton-operated Combat Caboose with Rail Repair devices), survived numerous hits from Heat Rays and, despite showing buckled plates and grime-caked engine, remains a mobile defensive platform. Its normal run its along an exiting Old Gauge Line from St. Louis to Colby, Kansas and then to Cheyenne, Wy, and then return.

Trustee: The Really Wild West is a world where heroes, monsters, oracles, madmen, and adventurers have existed for thousands of years. Nations, towns, organizations, and businesses have evolved to deal with the fact that sometimes if a wandering hero or expert doesn’t save you, no one else can.
Thus it is common for individuals and small bands to be on a path to be considered “trustees” of groups and governments. These are outsiders who have earned the trust of a government or organization of note. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are trustees of Scotland Yard. The Spectral Rider is a trustee of the town of Eagle Net, New Mexico. The Kestrel is a trustee of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and so on.
Bigger organizations have numerous steps of trust that occur before you are a trustee, but a trustee is generally considered to be competent, potent, trusted, and an ally of the group that names them trustee. A trustee does not necessarily agree with all actions of the bestowing group, and individual members of the group might mistrust the trustee (think of Batman as a trustee of Gotham PD), but the organization as a whole formally cuts the trustee considerable slack.

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The Dynasties of the Fantômonde

In the Fantômonde, there are five Dynasties that represent the five ways a terne may discover the phantom world. Upon accessing the Fantômonde for the first time, a percie is wise to find which Dynasty they used to expand their world. Once a percie knows this, they are referred to as a Scion of that dynasty.

Ankhar epitomize resilience, determination, and perseverance. They are seen as dull or stubborn by many other Scions, but Ankhar don’t give up easily and at the end of a trying time it is the Ankhar most likely to be left standing.

Mahgreis see pain and sadness as the best teachers for both themselves and others. They may be dismissed as broody and unempathic, but they wish to see the world as it truly is, and believe nothing of value is accomplished without sacrifice.

Peraseer are thoughtful, intuitive, and creative. They are sometimes accused by other Scions of being flighty or chaotic, but they are simply more likely to trust their instincts than obvious answers and will take the time they need to explore new thoughts or hunches before being comfortable with a plan.

Valdrakken take to power and violence. Scions of other dynasties often see them as brutish, short-tempered, and bloodthirsty, but when fighting begins most admit you want a Scion of Valdrakken on your side.

Whinnowhin appreciate things that are done right and done well, even thigns that other Scions look down upon. A Whinnowhin may be seen as uncreative or unambitious, but they simply wish things to actually get done, rather than wasting time trying to find fancier ways to accomplish needful tasks.
Not all percies learn their Dynasty. Some think of the traditions defining them as limiting or self-fullfilling prophecies. Others claim to be empowered my multiple Dynasties, despite the seers and mancers declaring that factually this never happens. And a few just don’t get around to it, spending more time focusing on their vocation, or trying to build a veil to remove themselves from the Fantômonde and wishing to renounce all elements of it.

Author’s Note:
I don’t know if I’ll ever touch this again, but it leaped into my head nearly fully-formed, so I wrote it down. If you DO want me to explore these ideas more, obviously the best way to let me know is to join my Patreon and say so! 🙂